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When it comes to starting your own business, many entrepreneurs ask themselves what is the best option for protecting themselves. This leads to the question if it is better to trademark or copyright your business, products, or materials. This guide will outline the differences between using these two methods of protection.

Is Trademark the Way to Go?

Trademarks are easily identifiable by two symbols. The “TM” is for unregistered users and the “R” with the circle around it is used for registered users. Trademarks allow the company or brand to identify and distinguish their source of goods from others. These are normally a great option to use as it relates to words, phrases, symbols, and designs.

Currently there are over 16 million active trademarks that exist on many different levels. An estimated 6% is used for State, 13% for Federal, and 81% for Common Law. While in active use, rights can be removed after 5 years of inactivity.

If the rights and use of a Trademark are infringed, the trademark holder and legal representative can enforce penalties for infringement. Ensuring your rights are protected can help prevent other companies from using similar markings or selling goods that are close to the protected brand.

A Comparison to Copyright

Copyrights are normally represented by two symbols. One is the popular “C” inside a circle that stands for current and the other symbol is a “P” inside the circle used for sound recordings. Copyrights are used to protect works of authorship that are tangible expressed. This is most often seen in writings, music, performances, and works of art.

An estimated 700,000 registered claims occur each year and last for the life of the author or +70 years. For corporate authorship, protections extend for 120 years from the date. These rights remain protected and can be enforced by the copyright holder or attorney if infringed upon.

The benefits of copyright allow the owners to receive exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, perform, sell, and import/export works of art. To file for a copyright, the author must register and provide a nonrefundable filing fee and deposit of works.


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